18 April 2010

our truth

Pretend it's 15 April.

I don't need to extend the tax deadline. I need to post about our adoption as part of JCICS's campaign to show the quietly successful side of adoption that often gets overlooked in the media. And, on 15 April I'd just arrived home. I could've slapped a post together, but this seemed too important to treat it in a slapdash way.

I adopted Lexi, who is a year younger than Artyem Saviliev, the boy we've all be reading about incredulously, six-and-a-half months ago. Both children were adopted from Russia in September 2009.

I don't know what sort of information Torry Hansen was given, but I was given very little--and much of that was conflicting. And yet, I stood before a judge and promised, vowed, to love and cherish this little girl, to do everything in my power to make sure she grew and was loved and happy. You'll remember that it was not a decision I took lightly. But, I knew that no matter happened, no matter what we were called to face together, she was my daughter. She was mine and I was hers.

We have been extremely blessed. Our adjustment has been so much easier than I thought it would be. She didn't show the physical aggression that I expected. She didn't rage. She didn't test. Aside from some sleep issues and feeling the need to clean her plate...and other little things that are normal for pi children, we really didn't have any issues to deal with. Maybe that's the key--I knew what was normal for a pi child.

I don't know what Torry Hansen did while she was waiting, but I spent that time getting ready. I wasn't just buying darling clothes and picking out bed linens. (Yes, I did that, too--but it didn't take long.) I read. I read everything I could on post-institutionalized children, children with histories of trauma and neglect, children with FAS, children who were home from Russia for mere days, for months, for years. I became a part of the amazing online community of international adopters. I talked to other parents who had and were adopting internationally. I educated myself. I made plans and alternate plans. I was prepared for the worst, and truly got the very best.
I love my daughter fiercely.

Really, there is no one I'd rather spend my time with. Seeing the world open in front of her is enchanting. It doesn't have to be trips to other countries that delight her. She's more amazed at the process of dying Easter eggs or the laundry becoming clean. She loves the smell of clean sheets and cheers when I get a stain out of her clothes. She is funny and entertaining. Watching her dance fills me with joy. Seeing what a little PERSON she is, watching her preferences and opinions emerge, just fills me up.

Older child adoption, says my friend Becky, is more like a marriage than giving birth. (Not having done either, I'll rely on her wisdom. ;> ) You choose each other. You are both people with pasts--and baggage--and you must find a way to fit all that baggage in one closet. Zip suitcases inside one another and take them out when you need to get to them. Choose to get rid of some of your baggage to make room for hers. (Asking her to get rid of hers so you can keep yours is not only unrealistic, it's selfish.) Or, get a bigger closet.

A high school student was taking pictures for the yearbook of the audience at the school play about a week ago. He wanted a picture of Lexi and I. So, I stood there talking to her, waiting for him to get his "candid" shot. His comment (as she shared her cookie with me) was, "You look like a newlywed couple." "Well," I told him, Becky's post rattling around in my head, "that's essentially what we are."

We are two people who have been brought together to make a family.

Being an American who lives in Russia, I am extremely aware of the picture Lexi and I present. I know that we are being watched and measured. We are closely observed and our interactions, our behavior, and Lexi's behavior, is noted and commented upon. It's a little unnerving, being the posterfamily for international adoption over here. I feel a little like a lab rat sometimes. But, I can't imagine a better ambassador for older-child adoption than my little girl. Her courage astounds me. And her sunny disposition, her zest for life, and those dimples charm everyone around her. I know that people who see us NOW think that I "got one of the good ones". If they could have heard the things that were said of her before, how little was thought of her chances for success, I don't know how they'd fit that information into their worldview, how they'd reconcile it with the delightful child that she is. They would want to dismiss is as untrue or a mistake. And yet, they wouldn't want to admit that there could be a mistake in their system.

But there clearly was a mistake, as her success exemplifies.

The truth is, she is simply amazing. She is tenderhearted, kind, gentle, sparkly, creative and just. She tries her best at everything every single day. I am so grateful to be her mother and am looking forward to every day of our lives together. That's the truth of adoption as we live it.

Last week in Vienna.


The Holmes Crew said...

Perfectly stated! Thank you!

votemom said...

slava bogu!

and i love both of you!

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

I got a tear! The pictures of Lexi the day you met and now.... there are no words.

Yours and her adjustment might have been easier than you thought, but I have to say I think that is because you worked your fingers to the bone preparing. I remember you even had the layout of your house in mind for her arrival. You did more to get yourself ready to receive her than almost any other parent. All that work paid off and your daughter benefited immensely. But make no mistake, YOU did it, it didn't just happen. You are a wonderful mother!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post Kate!

Becky and Keith said...

Those pictures from Vienna speak a million words! I love the difference between the "unsure" picture and the "very much a family" picture! Thanks for taking the time to post all of this! You're a great mom!

standtogether said...

Lexi looks like yours. Because she is yours. And it's amazing. I wish you both all the best.

Tammy said...

To piggy back off of what you said, I get irritated when people think that if you adopt a young child, you will have no problems and if you adopt an older child, you are in big trouble. There is no "magic formula" to determine which child will struggle and which will not. Zachary came to me at 6 months and really struggled for awhile. I know of other children who came home as infants and really struggled. And I also know of other older children who came home and seemed to glide smoothly right into their new life. You can't predict which children will struggle and which will not.

That all being said, you are 100% correct. Torry flat out did not listen when people discussed some of the issues Artyem could have. Nor did she follow the plan SHE made for WACAP about what to do when issues arise. I can't help but wonder how severe his issues really are. Maybe he is as disturbed as she claims. Or maybe her expectations are so ridiculous that she adopted a very normal PI child and was not as patient or as loving as he needed. And when he could sense that she didn't like him, he retaliated and they began a very disturbing downward cycle.

Or it could easily have been a combination of both. We will never know what really happened in that house. What we do know for sure though is that Torry cared so very little about this little boy that she made the most selfish decision any parent could make.

On another interesting note, I do know what you mean by the poster child for adoption. As a transracial family and a single family, we face some of the same scrutiny. Sometimes I like showing off how well we are doing and sometimes I wish we could just blend it. But it is what it is. I decided a long time ago though that it is not Zachary's job to educate the world about all they don't know. If he gets older and wants to talk, he can. But I will not make him the guinea pig for everyone.

Karrie said...

I LOVE watching your love grow.
If only all children were given the chance to truly be seen.


kristin said...

So true. Love the picture of you and Lexi at the end, the first one! You guys look so happy!

Barb said...

That was terrifically said.

We always comment on how cute Lexi looks, but YOU look amazing, Kate!

nancy49456 said...

Beautiful - pictures and words

Love the contrast.

Brought tears as usual!

Mrs. Butler said...

Kate, lovely post, full of truth and warmth. I want to say this: not only does Lexi look so much better in the last pictures than the first, YOU look better than I've ever seen you look. Motherhood suits you. Lexi suits you.

Amy said...

That was just....awesome!!!
Ya'll look so joyful in Vienna, so happy!
I know it is nerve wracking, but I am so glad that you 2 represent American adoptions. Because ya'll make us all look good!!! :)

Annie said...

How broadly I am smiling. You did such a good job with this "assignment". I hadn't thought about that point of view "she got one of the good 'ones'", but people have actually said that about my kids on occasion. I was fairly oblivious about that until recently, because it didn't compute.

I also smiled when you talked about how excited she'll get when you get a stain out of her clothes. I remember with delight, the first time Ilya ran across one of those Tide pens that take out stains. He was obviously embarrassed at the stain on his white school uniform shirt, and the receptionist at the doctor's office handed him her Tide Pen. He was so overwhelmed, both with amazement and gratitude that she gave it to him - and he just beamed!

So do I every time I think of it!

Kathy Friend said...

All I can think of to say is high-5 and AMEN!

nicole said...

That is a wonderful post..lexi truly is the poster child for russian adoption..when my children read this blog with me and hear about russian things in the news they think of her..I dont know how that woman could send her child back knowing she was sending him back to a orphanage with no family and no love..I find it hard to sleep knowing so many kids in russia have no homes..and we have signed the online petition to ask russia to not stop russian adoption..please keep blogging kate it may seem strange to you even unnerveing that people like to read you daily life but it truly gives us canadians a diff view of another you guys and your truly doing us a service teaching us new things everyday. huggs from canada..

Chris said...

Nicely said!

Katie said...

Yes and yes and yes and yes. Love this post.

Tina in CT said...

The Russian officials should see your post. Very well said.

Maura said...

First, I also have to say how incredible you both look TOGETHER - love the contrast between excited-but-unsure in the older photo, to relaxed-and-love-each-other-with-all-you-are in the Vienna pics.

And your commentary on the recent events is so well-written. Letting the actions of a well-prepared PAP who became a mom immersed in knowledge for whatever issues you might encounter with your child perfectly showcases what was lacking in the case of Ms. Hansen.

And you are truly blessed with Lexi, ans she with you. All of your hard work before the adoption and since are the true reasons for the relative ease in your adjustment to each other. (aside from being made for each other, that is!)

Conethia and Jim Bob said...

Beautifully spoken!! This lady actually lives within an hours drive of us! I am just appalled that the local government is stating that she broke no laws and faces no charges for her actions! Is it ok then to send a child on a greyhound to another state capital with a note attached to them stating that one has made a mistake in birthing such a child and that you revoke your parental rights?!! I just pray for the 3000 + families whose adoptions have been "held up" as a result of this one lady's unbelievable decision. I know things do not always work the way we picture them. Could she have not taken the proper steps for a disruption, something?! Lord, help the situation as only you can!

Elizabeth said...

Great post! I have had a lot of the same thoughts. Agree, agree, agree!

Jackie said...

Lovely post, and you're both beautiful!

McMary said...

Awesome post--you and Lexie are such a perfect family and you both look awesome.
Much of what you wrote fits my adoption perfectly too--I just haven't said it so eloquently.
Thanks for representing us in Russia.

3 going on 4... said...

What a beautiful and honest post. I wholeheartedly agree with every word of it. Our son came home at 2years of age and he DID rage, and we DID face a lot of hard days and nights, but I simply cannot imagine EVER turning my back on him. He is my son FOREVER!!!
Today, 2 years and a lot of hard work later, he is a vibrant and happy little boy. He spreads joy wherever he goes... he is such a treasure! He truly is my hero.
There is a part of me that mourns the fact that Russia will never get to experience the joy that he is. I can only imagine how it feels to be in your shoes. I was uncomfortable just in the 2 weeks we "lived" there with our son. The negative words and actions still sting...
Thank you for showing Russia that success stories are REAL and that these kids are real people with amazing potential.

Camille said...

I just happened across your blog. (Yeah!) I am so grateful to read a positive story. (I have adopted 5 children from the same birthmother over a 10 year period). I have been exposed to so much negative about adoption lately, that your post was a breath of fresh air. Thank you for sharing!